Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 6, 2011

HOUSE REPUBLICAN ON MEDICARE PLAN: 'THINGS ARE UNRAVELING'.... Three weeks ago today, House Republicans approved their radical budget plan, which included, among other things, a measure to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme. After the vote, GOP officials were all smiles, confident they'd made the right move.

As of this morning, the party's leadership is retreating. Over the course of 24 hours, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp all backed away from the Medicare privatization scheme. Rank-and-filed Republicans, who apparently weren't told this was coming, were left dazed and confused.

"It is a big problem," one GOP aide said. "Things are unraveling."

Indeed, in the first round of White House budget talks, overseen by Vice President Biden, Cantor outlined his party's vision on the budget, but largely ignored the Medicare plan. "He didn't need to talk about it in that room," said one participant. "Everyone knows it's dead."

At this point, the folks to keep an eye on are the vulnerable House Republicans who voted for their party's radical budget plan, knowing full well it wouldn't pass the Senate.

Some members -- especially freshmen from districts with steep re-election hills to scale -- were upset to hear that the plan could be scotched after they had voted for the budget proposal and then invested so much hard work trying to sell it back home over the spring recess.

Right. These lawmakers stuck their necks out, and then returned home to angry constituents, trying to sell their party's agenda. Four days after going back to work, they learn that their leaders -- the ones who demanded they vote for the right-wing agenda -- are giving up on the most contentious idea. It's the sort of thing that's likely to breed intra-party resentments.

As for the leadership, Atrios asked a good question yesterday: "What were they thinking?"

That's not a rhetorical question. Boehner, Cantor, & Co. knew the risks and knew Dems were unlikely to give in on Medicare. So why force their own caucus to put their careers and majority on the line?

Jonathan Bernstein outlined three possibilities: (1) GOP lawmakers are afraid of primary challengers; (2) they're so stuck in epistemic closure that they thought their plan would be popular; (3) they're just incompetent and didn't realize what they were doing.

Without access to the internal deliberations, it's obviously hard to say with certainty, but I'm going with Door #2. Republicans boasted for months that they're following the will of "the American people," convinced they earned a mandate in November to shred the social contract. Since they only interact with people who agree with them, GOP officials actually started to believe their own spin.

As of yesterday, it seems the leadership woke up.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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No one could have foreseen.


Posted by: Kill Bill on May 6, 2011 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, you might think that they've woken up. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: Blue Galangal on May 6, 2011 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

I'd add 2.5) They underestimated a certain guy with a funny name: Barack Hussein Obama. About this particular person, epistemic closure is leading to wildly incorrect and politically disastrous conclusions.

Will Republicans figure this out? One might think so, since it's a matter of political survival, but we shall see.

Posted by: MattF on May 6, 2011 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

So where does this leave the rest of the Ryan plan? It would actually raise deficits until the putative end of Medicare; now that those savings are off the table, it'd seem like the Ryan plan is a complete non-starter. Even to die-hard Republicans.

Posted by: jvwalt on May 6, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's a bit of all three, plus Obama is black.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 6, 2011 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

I am surprised and disappointed this mistake by the house leadership in having the vote hasn't done more to change predictions about the dems ability to re-take the house.

Posted by: david on May 6, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

The three reasons are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they follow: 1 is the motivation, 2 allowed them to place greater value on their fears than good policy, and that's because of 3...

Posted by: Todd for VT House on May 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

A pyrrhic victory for the Village. All the "serious" people gave the zealots a sense that they not only won at the ballot box but where it really matters - elite opinion. Nothing is so delusional as an echo chamber cut off from the lives of actual people.

Posted by: walt on May 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

I had always figured that they were always lying about how their plans would work, but this indicates that some of them really believed their own press. Always a dangerous move.

Posted by: Daniel Kim on May 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

...I'm going with Door #2

Ditto. Can't find the post but I'd predicted that the Republicans' oblivious overreach under the faulty assumption that the public was on their side with respect to their radical agenda, despite clear evidence to the contrary, would come back and bite them in arse...

Posted by: dcshungu on May 6, 2011 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

oh, the poor elephant.

why does he believe he has political capital and can drink like a drunk sailor who expects everyone else to pick up the tab?

Posted by: gus on May 6, 2011 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Door #2 for sure.

After all, Republicans lied and convinced the rubes that ACORN stole elections, that Obama was going to get the government involved in Medicare and ruin it, that Obama wanted to murder your grandmother, that Obama was born in Kenya.

WHY would the imagine that they couldn't sell this pig? And, when their ONLY source of news is FOX, they believed their own garbage.

Posted by: Mark-NC on May 6, 2011 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Is it surprisingly real ? That the fawning members of the Suzi Cream Cheese media has muddled its cheer leading long enough to reflect on events rather than narrative ?
Or has reality derangement syndrome (hunger , disaster , birth , death ) managed even this hiccough with the grace and ease of a Richard (Tricky Dicky) Nixon ?
Quote or quotes from some where ...
I had to pinch the sailor next to me to see if I was dreaming

When I awoke were the internicene travails of the gutsy Tee Baggeurs just a small ripple in the fabric of Koch industries plans fer you n' me ?
Or were we in a popcorn popping segue ?
Tuen in to these same stations , same time same day , same everything !

Posted by: FRP on May 6, 2011 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

I am delighted to see (on my TV machine) some serious faces - Boehner, Cantor etc. I really love the fact that the smirk has gone from their collective faces.
Another subject - hope you all are following the events in Wisconsin - Ballot bags all open and in dis-aray, fraudulent recall signatures against dems
etc. If this is the way repubs act they will be cheating big time in the next election.

Posted by: j on May 6, 2011 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

It was ALL 3!

And, once they have control of government again, they won't even try to polish or warm up that turd - they'll just serve it cold.
Out of spite.

Fear and spite are two of the drving forces of modern conservatism.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 6, 2011 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

j, cheating only matters to Republicans if they get away with it - only matters to Democrats if they can prove it.

What's that line? Ah, yes: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Posted by: blondie on May 6, 2011 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Hey j ! Which palantir or "Seeing Stone" were you using to observe these distressing images ?

Posted by: FRP on May 6, 2011 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

And just to make it better, the Nutball Right is doubling down on its hapless Representatives. Today Iowa's Bob Van Der Plaats, who has mostly been identified with "values" issues until now (he was largely behind the successful recall of Iowa's gay-legitimizing Supreme Court judges), announced he will host a Tea Party event at the National Press Club in Washington Monday commencing a national campaign to challenge any Republican Representative who votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling. He will be joined by WorldNet's Joseph Farah and, of course, some guy in a funny costume, before adjourning to a Tea Party convention in Kansas City.

Posted by: ericfree on May 6, 2011 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans boasted for months that they're following the will of "the American people," convinced they earned a mandate in November

...by falsely accusing the Democrats of voting to cut Medicare, instead of the Republicans' bogus privatization scheme.

Posted by: Gregory on May 6, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

They walked through a door marked Ideology Run Amok, only to find the next door Reality slammed in their collective faces. Amazing what happens when Ideology meets Reality.

Akin to getting elected, then, finding out you have be part of governing.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 6, 2011 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Live by the town hall meeting; die by the town hall meeting.

Posted by: Bo on May 6, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

who broke the news to very serious person paul ryan? sure hope he doesn't go all john galt on us.

Posted by: jim filyaw on May 6, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Tea Party convention coming to Kansas City. With the conservative bible thumping bean counter Duane Benton and his fellow Shrub appointee on the 8th Circuit extending the lockout at Arowhead, hasn't KC suffered enough?

Posted by: berttheclock on May 6, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, epistemic closure and arrogance. (Sometimes literally enforced, remember Bush's managed rallies and press conferences, etc?) Righties are so determined to "believe", they are faith-based and not reality-based, in so many ways. It figures, and the let-down couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of destructive pricks and ninnies, but they still have potential for plenty of damage. Note that they have stealth tricks up their sleeves, see e.g. from an email I got:

Dear MoveOn member,

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has an urgent message about a new plan gaining traction in Washington. He calls it "the Republican plan with lipstick," and it's really dangerous. It includes a "Medicare kill switch" that we have to stop. To find out how it works, check out Reich's warning and then pass it on so we can stop this plan before it gets off the ground.

Link at robertreich.org/post/5043078164

Posted by: Neil B on May 6, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

My guess is that the leadership knew that the freshman members would not tolerate reason, that the only way they would be convinced of the folly of their ways was through the voter rage that was wholly predictable by rational people.

But in the end, who knows and who cares why the House GOP acted so recklessly? As PBO would say, it is "who they are". All I know is that the continued political punishment they will endure couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

Posted by: JD on May 6, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Claire McCaskill is part of that "Kill Switch" of which Robert Reich speaks. She is becoming very afraid of the hoof beats of Todd Akin's coming from the far right. Her new mantra is "Must Out-Right Akins" Heck of a Mizzouian bumper sticker.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 6, 2011 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Correction to above. "Todd Akin's steed.."

Posted by: berttheclock on May 6, 2011 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats of course won't bother to remind people that the GOP tried to gut Medicare - wouldn't be civil. By next November it will all have been forgotten. The election will be about who's more determined not to raise taxes.

Posted by: Basilisc on May 6, 2011 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Privatizing Medicare is a GOP "Aspirational Plan".

Posted by: SW on May 6, 2011 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

This seems somewhat reminiscent of the cap and trade vote in the last session... although in that case, if I recall correctly, Pelosi set a lot of Dems free to vote how they wanted, and so the margin by which it passed was much smaller. What's different here, I gather, is that the House GOP ought to have realized ahead of time that their plan would not get past a majority-Democrat Senate, whereas I think Pelosi was somewhat blindsided by the Senate never moving on an energy bill.

Posted by: Patience on May 6, 2011 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK


door #4) So convinced that the media is wired for them, so emboldened by never being called out on lie after lie after lie, Republicans felt they had enough puppet master strings to pull off this coup.


door #5) After 8 years of gutting this country's wealth with far rightwing ideology,there simply isn't much more for Republicans to accomplish that doesn't include going all-in on making a master race and enslaving the rest of the world.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on May 6, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

It's good to see Republican hubris rewarded like this. Republican hubris during the last administration, for example, led to thousands of deaths and a tattered economy.

Posted by: David V. on May 6, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the republican leadership is simply looking for a way to distance themselves from the wacko wing of the party before the 2012 elections.

Posted by: rbe1 on May 6, 2011 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Urgent note for Harry Reid: Brings Ryan's abomination to the Senate floor for a vote and force McConnel and company to go on record as to where they stand on this issue. They vote to pass it and Obama gets to save medicare with his veto; they vote to kill it and have to face tea party challenges in the next primary.

Posted by: sparky on May 6, 2011 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

I remember being irritated every time Bo(eh)ner would preface one of his ridiculous pronouncements with "the American People whatever", as if he really knew or cared. You know what the American People want, John? They want a job, affordable medical care, and the pension and health care that they paid for all of their working lives. What are you and your clown show of a party doing about that?

Posted by: Roger the Cabin Boy on May 6, 2011 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

on the one hand, the new TeaParty nutjobs can go back home and say "we tried but the Dems screwed us". We'll see how that plays, since it was directly the recent TeaParty Townhall's that convinced the GOPer hierarchy to dump the Ryan plan because it was a bridge too far for the exact group that voted them in. Note to TeaParty - Medicare and SocSec aren't referred to as the "third rail" for nothing.

Posted by: T2 on May 6, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Are they negotiating right now to try to get Reid to withdraw his plan to make Senators of the Republican persuasion to vote on the Ryan budget?

Are democrats making any headway due to this?

Posted by: jjm on May 6, 2011 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Republican leadership is just trying to bait the small government tea party freshmen into losing their reelections.

Posted by: steve on May 6, 2011 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

My money's on 4) -- They thought they could browbeat the Democrats into caving, because it's worked before.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on May 6, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives make their own reality. If their policies don't work in the real world they never ever entertain the possiblity that the policy was the problem. It's always the policy wasn't followed enough or the Evil Other sabotaged or they were betrayed by an impure thinker within their own ranks. They just cannot ever admit to error in their beliefs. That's why they are conservatives. It's a personality disorder, not a political philosophy.

Posted by: wokie on May 6, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

We'll recall that Bush didn't try to kill Social Security until after he could no longer seek re-election. So perhaps a collective "oops, we forgot about that."

Btw, let's take a moment to be proud of the lucid Americans who have been forcefully resisting their flimflam and telling them to shove it.

Posted by: jTh on May 6, 2011 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

They just cannot ever admit to error in their beliefs. That's why they are conservatives. It's a personality disorder, not a political philosophy.


Posted by: Roger the Cabin Boy on May 6, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

By the end of next week, they'll be saying there never was any plan to privatize Medicare, and that the Democrats are the ones who wanted to cut it.

Television "journalists" will nod, and fail to ask them about the bill they voted on, and how they can say they never intended to do the very thing the bill demands.

Democrats, lulled into dropping the issue by this week's retreat, will fail to follow through on the attack. They will get distracted by the next crazy-ass thing, like the debt ceiling, or whatever comes after.

All summer, we will hear GOP leaders very seriously saying things that are not true, rewriting the history of the Ryan plan, and by November a majority of low-information voters will believe that Republicans want to protect Medicare and always have.

Posted by: biggerbox on May 6, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

This confirms my long-held perception of Paul Ryan as an annoying Ayn Rand fanboy who engages in a lot of busywork that wastes everyone's time and produces nothing of value.

Posted by: June on May 6, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

So on the so called budget cutting, Boner boy lost - how many votes ? Now this? If this was Nancy P, wouldn't the press be all over the incompetence?

But of course, SHE is a woman, and Dem....

While this is great to crow about, everyone needs to keep the pressure on ALL the bullshit things they are passing - the antiwomen votes wrt Planned P., reproductive rights, etc; the "screw you if you are under 55" budget bills, etc...

Posted by: bigtuna on May 6, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I second Mark-NC. He says it all.

Posted by: CDW on May 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

It's all three, with a strong dose of Door #3, which is just Standard Republican incompetence.

The last war this version of the Republican Party fought was 150 years ago, on the losing side. They also presented a "southern" economic plan 150 years ago that didn't work then and doesn't work now, no matter how fine an aged vintage they claim it is.

The South are Traditional Losers, and now that their parasite has taken over the Republican Party in its entirety, in a way they never were able to achieve with the Democratic Party, they are proving what happens when the parasite controls the host. It dies.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 6, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Biggerbox is so on the money it's depressing.
Someone said it up above, but my vote is a fourth option, that they thought they could simply lie enough to muddy the waters and get their agenda passed like they always do. Now will come a completely shameless about-face and this whole issue will be buried under a pile of lies and distractions come fall.

Posted by: Anon on May 6, 2011 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

100% correct June! I have always thought the same thing in reguards to this moron. No disrespect to children, but, doesn't he seems like a child who has yet another piece of "art" for the refrigerator door? Still, we cannot let our guard down with these people ... ever.

Posted by: uncle knuckle on May 6, 2011 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

I saw a program on brain scans where they compared Democrats brain scans with those of Republicans. Thes were compared with people who were feeling a variety of emotions. They found that Democrats were more adventurous and risky while Republicans showed more fear and anxiety. I guess they are afraid of losing their money and power!

I think we should put pressure on congress to make corporations pay their fair share. There must be some change in the tax laws so the corporations can't use loopholes and get away with paying no taxes - instead they pay for campaigns to elect their little pawns. This would be a good issue to get Republicans to be in a pickle and realize their political suicide.
Let's really push on this!

Posted by: SJAE on May 6, 2011 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

@Uncle Knuckle - you've nailed it -- "....doesn't he seems like a child who has yet another piece of "art" for the refrigerator door?...." Hello! Except the child's artwork many times at least shows some sign of promise.

Posted by: June on May 6, 2011 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

they are still lying scumbags. they only pretend to have awakened to the factsif they get the prez and senate before the ink is dry on their swearing in ceremony they will have put the final nail in the coffin to destroy this country. if you have any doubt just look at the states with rethug gov, soon this country really will be divided into red states with low info voters, little to no access to health care horribles schools, low pay and the blues states where we already have a higher quality of living. blues states gov need to call out the national guard, now, to protect us from the influx of folks, who once they wake up will realize that they live in taliban led states.

Posted by: shirley on May 6, 2011 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK
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